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Over-Policing of Occupy and Related Protests Continues Post- Eviction After the violent eviction of Occupy Portland demonstrators from two downtown parks in November and crackdowns on subsequent actions (PPR #55), Portland Police have continued targeting Occupy and related protests, albeit inconsistently. The two most egregious examples were a January 25 Occupy protest marking one year since Egypt's Tahrir Square demonstrations and a February 6 protest against police brutality in solidarity with Occupy Oakland.
The January 25 event started peacefully, but as the evening wore on and the march stopped by the old campsite at Chapman and Lownsdale squares (then still fenced off for "repairs"), the police got brutal. The Portland Occupier reports that officers punched one young man, tackled another, pushed people into the fences using horses, and hit people on the ground "with fists and sticks" (January 25). The cops pushed several protestors down, including a woman live-streaming who had her computer and camera knocked to the ground. PPB spokesperson Lt. Robert King claims that one cop got scratched and spit on (Oregonian, January 26). The police also confiscated the Disco Trike--a tricycle outfitted with a sound system providing music for the movement, but released it a few days later after an internet campaign sprung up.
On February 6, the protest through Southeast Portland opposing police brutality in Oakland (on January 28) was not technically organized by Occupy, but was attended by many Occupy folks. There was some vandalism by a few of the protestors, though others were picking up dumpsters and trash cans as they got knocked over. According to those who were there, police targeted, pounced on and arrested people who were not responsible for the vandalism, including several neighborhood folks who had come out to observe the protest. Prior to the event, Lt. King re-posted an anonymous flyer for the event as evidence that protests would be "more hostile and escalating" (Oregonian, February 7). This political profiling is also reflected in the discriminatory way police approach homeless people who claim to be with the Occupy movement (see article, this issue).
Although quite a few Occupy-related demonstrations have had no police altercations, it is still unfathomable that the mainstream narrative continues to be that Portland's dealings with Occupy have been universally "peaceful" and "restrained." On Martin Luther King Day, two churches held ceremonies where the Bureau was slated to get nonviolence awards for how they handled Occupy. At one, the Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church, Occupy protesters were able to approach the pastor (Matt Hennessee) ahead of time, causing him to pull the nonviolence award and substitute a "bridge-building award" to both Occupy and the cops. (It is true that Occupy Portland had a mostly good relationship with the police until about two days before the eviction in November.) Unfortunately, the other ceremony, at Highland Church, went ahead with the award despite the well documented (but apparently invisible to much of the public) pepper-spraying, hair-pulling, horse- shoving, riot-suit-wearing, baton-thumping actions of the PPB against Occupy last fall.
In a positive development, Multnomah County Judge Cheryl Albrecht ordered that in incidents where people were arrested, the District Attorney cannot treat misdemeanor charges as low-level violations. Albrecht's move ensures all such arrestees will have the right to an attorney and a jury trial (Portland Mercury, February 16). So far, the ruling only applies to Albrecht's courtroom, but she was slated to hear at least 70 of the 120 occupy-related cases. In early April, Albrecht ordered the police to turn over information including video, notes, and whether they had undercover officers at Occupy events (Mercury blog, April 10).
Portland Copwatch Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability
through citizen action.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.